New Diorama Theatre
On Saturday, I went to watch a performance of “Everyday” at the New Diorama Theatre in London. The production was created by Deafinitely Theatre, the first deaf-launched and deaf-led professional theatre company in the UK. I found the performance haunting and eye-opening, and I wanted to share my experience with you.
The audience entered the performance space ten minutes before a figurative curtain-up. I say this because there wasn’t actually a curtain; instead, the first row of seats peeked into the anticipated world, ready for the play to unfurl. This created an intimate atmosphere, reinforced by the 80-seat theatre and the set design, which was laid out to look like a olde worlde cottage like kitchen. Teaware adorned cabinets along with hung dried lavender, a straw broom, and a crocheted blanket strewn over a walnut dining chair at a round table. To further suggest a kitchen space, a screen with wooden framing created a backdrop, on which projections were backlit. The opening image was of pale red roses and their leaves, intimating patterned wallpaper. However, once the four actresses walked on stage, with an ominous gait and piercing eye contact, a sudden lighting change plunged the space into darkness, establishing a new scenery suitable for a coven’s meeting. I thought the stark contrast was very dramatic and grabbed our attention immediately.
I enjoyed how the show played with the deception created by the visual senses throughout the performance. Through clever wordplay and British sign language, it was revealed that these women wanted to reinvent the misconceptions of the sign/word “WITCH”, and instead consider their activities as a ritual of community and catharsis. Because you see the stories, they shared were repressed memories inspired by true stories of deaf women and non-binary people’s experiences of surviving abuse. By creating a safe space to share, they each were able to find relief and radiate support. A truly magical transition, much more empowering than transforming people into toads.
I watched this play with my brother Matt, and we were both interested to see the different dramatic methods the play employed to make it accessible and bewitching to both deaf and hearing audiences. The cast incorporated visual vernacular, physical theatre, British Sign Language (BSL), spoken English, and voice-overs. These elements were supported by dramatic lighting effects, transformative projected videos, sporadic subtitles to highlight key moments, and a varied soundscape of the pulsating bass, silence, and ambient sounds.
It was enlightening to be invited into a deaf person’s experience of audism ( the belief that the ability to hear makes one superior to those with hearing loss ) . Through my BSL lessons, I have tried to learn about deaf awareness, but I realise I have much to discover. There was a poignant moment in the park scene, which depicted an interaction between a deaf and a hearing person. When the deaf woman made a joke about not being able to attend the date because she had to wash her hair, I saw a reflection of myself on stage in the hearing character. They were so focused on trying to understand that they missed the joke, which caused a unison chuckle from the audience. At that moment, I learned how important it is to take in all the visual cues a person can give in a conversation, especially when communicating across different languages. I tried to watch the actor’s facial expressions in more detail, the speed of their movements, and the attack of their gestures (soft, energetic, hard), whilst also taking in the context of their surroundings to gain a fuller understanding. I think if I, perhaps we, use these observation skills in the wider world, we would encourage a more welcoming and kinder society.
If you would like to catch this show, here are the dates for the rest of the tour:
Birmingham Rep: 16th – 18th June 2022
York Theatre Royal: 21st – 22nd June 2022
Northern Stage: 24th – 25th June 2022
Fifi Garfield’s credits for the company include Contractions, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, other theatre credits include Macbeth (RSC), and Emma (UK tour). For television, her credits include Deaf Funny, 5 Needles, Vanishing, Don’t Leave Me This Way and Switch.
Cherie Gordon’s credits as an actor include Echoes (Brighton Screen and Film School) Afterthought (Derby Theatre), A Night in Sign (Storyhouse Live), Summer’s Park Adventure (Music Box Theatre), Messy (Zoo Co Theatre), Listen (BFI Film Academy short film), Pretty Bop (R.A.E music video), And Others (Graeae play reading), FGM (Sign Health awareness video) and Reverberation (BSL Zone). Credits as a director include Getting There (Toucan, Oxford Playhouse and Deafinitely Theatre) and Untitled (short film). She also works with Handprint Theatre, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, Deafinitely Theatre and Graeae, leading and assisting workshops for children.
Zoë McWhinney’s recent theatre credits include Red (Polka Theatre), The Two Fridas (Chickenshed/Handprint Theatre, V&A), Donut Worry (Young Vic) and Jack O’Kent (Ovalhouse).
Bea Webster’srecent theatre credits include The Winter’s Tale (RSC), Holding/Holding On (National Theatre of Scotland), peeling (UK tour) and Mother Courage and her Children (Leeds Playhouse).
Writer & Director – Paula Garfield
Set & Costume Designer – Grace Venning
Lighting Designer – Ali Hunter
Video Designer – Hayley Egan
Sound Designer – XANA
Movement Director – Angela Gasparetto
Dramaturg – Lakesha Arie-Angelo
Production Manager – Charlotte Ranson